Saturday, 16 September 2017

Brunchy Fridge-Raid Hash

Use up fridge remnants and fix your hangover. Boom.
'So, er, are we having anything nice for breakfast today? It doesn't matter if we aren't, I can just have Branflakes...' is the hopeful question I am asked eeeeeevery Saturday and Sunday morning. I like fun weekend breakfasts. I hate the idea of having cereal on a weekend. Cereal is for don't have time to grab anything more fun mornings. Weekdays. Workdays. But, and here is the tricky bit, it's all very well fastidiously planning your evening meals and having exciting, balanced, delish but not too expensive that you drain the joint account in one week meals Monday to Friday, but I find it hard to be THAT person who always plans super far ahead and generally run out of enthusiasm/inspiration. My response to the question asked is normally, 'Erm, eggs?' Luckily at times like these I suddenly remember the joys of fridge-raid hash. No, we do not get high for breakfast (not judging anyone who wants to do that...we all need to get by...) but by taking a little group of ingredients, that more often than not lurk in the fridge seemingly all by themselves, frying up in a big pan and chucking an egg on top, you have a knock out breakfast/brunch, and without trying that hard at all. And NO HORRIBLE BRANFLAKES!

One thing you do need is spuds, this can be in big or baby form, but you do need them. Take the amount you want to eat and either boil whole if tiny, or shop into desired sized pieces if big. Par-boil, drain, and set aside. What follows is one road you can go down, but don't feel you have to stick to it.

Feeds two. Chop an onion into quite chunky pieces and soften in olive oil in a large frying pan along with a finely sliced chilli and two cloves of garlic. Add a handful of chorizo, soft cooking chorizo is best but whatever you have works. Add a sliced pepper. Throw in the already cooked spuds, season generously and stir around really well, ideally letting the spuds catch slightly giving you some lush crispy bits. Add more oil if it all looks a bit dry. Tip into two bowls and top with some tomato wedges, chopped parsley and a fried egg (yolk MUST be runny for optimum eggy sauce).

Now for the fun bit, here is a list of the things that are sometimes lurking in the back of my fridge that I would happily use: pancetta, any sausage (probably best removed from casings), feta cheese, spinach, chilli flakes, courgettes, spring onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado (for topping with, not mixing in when cooking), you get the idea. Even better if they are just about to go off, so you can eat with a little glow of contentment that you saved them from a mouldy demise.

Now go and make your bits and bobs hash, and don't feel sad about boring weekend breakfasts again!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Man Salad (Pigeon, Pear & Walnut Salad)

Salad for men. Or women who also like meat in
 their salad (**puts hand up**).
Haven't blogged for a long time. But don't worry, I have been eating. Just not much in the way of new recipes as we were still doing building work. And I had a baby. Keeps you on your toes but now have my cooking mojo back. Whoop! Here's a nice new one to ease us into Autumn...

Many men balk at the idea of a salad. Throw some meat in and suddenly they are interested. Throw in some perfectly seared, just on the right side of pink, tender as anything pigeon breasts and they will barge you out the way before you can say 'I thought you didn't do salad'. This is so quick to put together, properly seasonal for right now and substantial and delicious enough to keep both hungry boys and the girls happy.

Feeds 4. Boil approx 400g of baby new potatoes in salted water until just cooked. Next do the pigeon breasts as they need a little time to rest after cooking. Take 8 breasts and season really generously. Get a heavy bottomed frying pan super hot and heat some olive oil or butter. Sear the breasts for no longer than 2 minutes each side, you want caramelisation on the outside but still pink in the middle, without blood running all over your greens. Give them a squidge, cut one open, better to have to put them back in than over cook and ruin them). Take out and put aside to rest.

Now make the dressing. In a pestle and mortar bash a small clove of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked, with a pinch of salt to make a paste. Stir in 2 tsp of sherry vinegar (can use whatever type you want, I just love sherry) and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Chop two quite firm pears into small cubes, no need to peel.

Slice each pigeon breast into about 3 strips. In a large bowl combine your salad leaves, (I like to use chicory, romaine, rocket, watercress and little gem, any combo, just one type is fine, do what you like) with the pear, two handfuls of either walnuts or toasted hazelnuts and pigeon. Toss with the dressing at the last minute, go easy, as you can always add more.

Get stuck in and feel good about your lunch choices. Until the cheese comes out that is...

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Smoked Salmon Rillettes - keeping it classy but easy

Sort-of quinelles
I am typing this still in a semi-building site (my home) with a miniature English Bull Terrier draped across me as if he is a teeny tiny lapdog. But he weighs 20 kilos and keeps wriggling so please excuse any typos. Please also excuse the fact I haven't posted since May, but living in said building site and cooking on my Campingaz 2000s (which only knows hot and bastard hot) has not inspired new culinary adventures, more like old favourites that I can cook with my eyes closed, and not get annoyed with my lack of proper kitchen over. The prospect of cooking in a real kitchen is so exciting that I invited myself back to my parents' to help cook for a little lunch party, even though there were rail replacements and I would spend almost as much time getting there and back as I would indulging in the real kitchen. It was worth it. I made smoked salmon rillettes with pickled cucumber for a starter, and it only went and bloody tasted great (much to my relief), so here's the recipe (can be made the day before).

Feeds four (easily doubled etc). Start with the liquid for the pickled cucumber. Combine 200ml of white wine vinegar with 150g sugar in a small saucepan, heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and leave to cool (I had to stick it outside as I was short of time). Peel the tough skin off half a cucumber with a potato peeler. Then peel the flesh into thin ribbons with the peeler, but leave the core full of seeds and too much water. Once the pickling liquid has cooled to room temperature, chuck in the cucumber ribbons and leave to pickle for an hour or so. 

Now for the rillettes. Poach two salmon fillets (I used slightly smoked, you don't have to) very simply in freshly boiled water, in a shallow dish with foil on top for about 8 minutes. Drain, cool, and flake into a bowl. Add to the bowl 200g finely shopped smoked salmon, a tbsp mayonaise, 1tbsp creme fraiche, zest and juice of a half a lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper, cracked black pepper and a small handful each of chopped chives and dill. Mix well and taste. This recipe is all about personal taste so add more lemon if it needs more zing, or cayenne if you want more kick. It should be lively and light, not claggy. If you have time, stick it in the fridge to cool. 

Serve how you like, I opted for quinelles (first time I tried them, not bad for a first attempt, well no-one laughed...) and with toasted seeded sourdough and a little pile of the cucumber pickle on the side. you could go with fancy melba toast but I think anything toasted would be great. Do make the pickle, it really adds contrast and looks pretty with the pink salmon. 

I think it went down well, but sadly one guest had brought with them incredible ridiculously amazing truffle favoured crisps so I had a tough challenge beating those. How inconsiderate. 

Friday, 27 May 2016

Lamb with Braised Little Gems & Peas

That's summer, right there.
This is a less is more recipe. Something quite refined which I've never been very good at (see my lamb tagine recipe). This is I don't know why but I feel like this is quite grown up. It is super springy, a celebration of everything that is green and fresh, super light to eat, but in a sophisticated dinner way, not a salady way. Cooking lettuce feels a bit special, it's my new favourite thing, transforming a crisp tight bundle of bright green to something a little more mellow and soft, but still with a little refreshing bite. I'm still reeling from how easy and quick it was so make, it would be perfect for a dinner party served up in a massive shallow dish. I want to cook it again, now. 

Serves two. Heat oven to 200c. Slice four spring onions, half a fennel bulb, two garlic cloves finely, and quarter two little gems lengthways, removing the very end but leaving root so you get nice wedges. Rub approx 450g lamb neck fillet (a little goes a long way) with olive oil and season. In a hot oven-proof frying pan, sear the lamb really well on both sides, about 5 minutes each side, no more. Put straight into the oven for about 7 minutes, remove from oven and cover in foil. Meanwhile melt a generous knob of butter in a saucepan and saute the spring onions and fennel until softened but not browned. Add garlic and stir for one minute. Throw in a small glass of white wine, and perhaps take a slurp yourself. Once this has bubbled for a minute or so add the lettuce and two handfuls of fresh peas. Don't bother with frozen ones here, just don't. For the lazy (me) you can buy fresh podded peas, so no excuse. Add 300ml chicken stock (sooo much better with home-made) and let this simmer for about 5 more minutes, until the peas are cooked and the lettuce has wilted a bit. Season. Slice up the lamb and serve on top of a pile of the green vegetables and their now amazing brothy sauce. Stick a wedge of lemon on the side for good measure. 

This is so simple that it's kind of baffling how good it is, but you let the ingredients speak for themselves and they have a lot to say. Not in a loud shouty way, more of a pleasant soft murmering way. Don't overshadow them with too much garlic or lemon (I am the first to overdo flavours normally), stick to the recipe and enjoy summer on a plate. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Asian Salsa Verde (a thrifty way to use up tired herbs)

This is a super simple quick way to use up those floppy herbs in your fridge. I made this the other night in what I can only call a rather successful fridge raid. I had leftover roast beef, all rare and lovely and some very sad looking thai holy basil. The Thais rule when it comes to zesty explosively flavour packed dressings on salads so I went that way inspired, and it bloody worked! You don't have to go East with this, it would be just as amazing with more familiar herbs, but the point is that you chop  up all the herbs really fine, mix them in with some friends, and spoon onto some meat/fish of some description. If veggie you could char some cauliflower and that would be wowser too. 

Makes enough for sploshing on two people's dinner: finely chop half a bunch of thai holy basil, a handful of coriander, one lemongrass stick (hard outer layers and end chopped off), two cloves of garlic and a red bird's eye chillie and the zest of a lime. Put in a bowl with two tablespoons of fish sauce and the juice of the zested lime, along with a splash of non-flavoured oil.* Mix it all up and spoon onto anything from a pork chop, to a grilled bit of fish and really bring it to life. This is soooo good with left over roast beef, very quickly stir fried with some noodles and a load of green veggies.

I've always been a fan of thrifty cooking, something about the smug glow of self-righteousness or something, and avoiding discovering mouldy herbs rotting in your fridge is always nice. 

* A more European combo could include parsley, tarragon, garlic, lemon zest and juice and extra virgin olive oil, but make sure you season it really well, in the 'Asian' version, the fish sauce is all the salt you need. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Chicken & Harissa One Pot (tray) Wonder

Camping but not camping
Oh how I feel bad about complaining about my tiny kitchen...that tiny kitchen was knocked down a month ago and oh how I long for my tiny kitchen again! Now I have a teeny tiny house, which is getting smaller by the minute, the husband assures me it will get bigger again (the builders come every day and do stuff outside but I can't help thinking this might be a nasty trick), and for now I am making do with enough space to stand in and that is all. The flip side is that  clever husband has managed to literally transplant the kitchen into our living room, so even though there is only enough room for a couple of hobbits (to be fair, I am roughly hobbit sized) I still have my oven, sink, dishwasher and hob. I say hob, but what I really mean is the CAMPINGAZ 200S!!! It's pretty sweet, it has too settings, high and very high, and after a bit of adjustment I'm getting used to it. 
Crap pic, but you get the idea. 

Cramped conditions call for easy cooking, more specifically one pot wonders. Nothing better than a delicious dinner that involves ramming a few key ingredients into a roasting tray and slamming in the oven. This is one of those. 

Feeds 2, but oh so easily doubled, tripled etc. Pre-heat the oven to 180c. Rub two free range chicken legs all over with a tablespoon of harissa each. You can buy it but if you can, make it (recipe here) as it keeps for ages and is so good in and with lots of things. You can cut some slits in the chicken to really let the flavour in. Put the legs in a roasting dish and add 8 cloves of garlic (skin on). I tend to tuck the garlic under the chicken, using the flappy bits as a weirdo kind of blanket for the garlic to stop it burning. Also add a couple of handfuls of baby potatoes, a big handful of cherry tomatoes, some thick wedges of lemon, season very well and pour over a glug of olive oil, giving it all a rattle/turn in the pan to coat. Throw it in the oven and once the chicken skin has gone all delicious and crispy you're done, between 30 and 40 minutes depending on how big they are. Give it all a shake halfway through to brown the spuds evenly and break up the tomatoes a bit. I served this with some spring greens tossed in butter and caraway seeds (TRY IT).

There were no leftovers and only one roasting tray (and one saucepan for the veg)  to wash up so I'm declaring it a success. Even if you have a massive kitchen, you should still cook this. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Calcots (what's all the fuss about hey?) and Cheat's Romesco Sauce

Giant spring onions or tiny hand?
In all honesty it was a case of FOMO* that made me buy calcots and I'm glad of this neurotic side to my personality to be honest, as it turns out these giant spring onions are really delicious and quite fun to eat. After a bit of Googling I learnt all about how crazy Catalonians go for these strange onions, even having a whole festival dedicated to the highly seasonal produce, the Calcotada, brilliant! I figured they'd make a fun and unusual start to our Sunday Roast, but then I started waning a little when I realised I had to made Romesco sauce to go with them, then waned a little more when I saw I didn't have all the ingredients. Then I decided I would just cheat and make a quick easy version, and bloody hell, it worked! The sauce would be great on bruschetta and also with fish, and is really good as a dip with crudities, so make the whole batch as below and use up during the week. I sadly didn't have a charcoal grill, which is traditional but I whacked the grill on max and made do (I nearly used our fire but then the Husband wisely reminded me about all the nasties in the coal etc, phew). 

For the cheat's Romesco sauce, heat your oven to 200c, and place on a roasting dish the following: two tomatoes halved, one red bell pepper halved, three cloves of garlic skinned and a piece of bread (I used sourdough). Roast for 10 minutes so things soften a bit but don't burn anything. Do check it. For the last three minutes add a handful of flaked almonds (what I had in the cupboard but whole ones would be better). Allow to cool slightly then throw in a food processor with a tablespoon of sherry vinegar, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a massive
Burnt onions! Hurray!
glug of extra virgin olive oil and season.
Wizz to a pesto like consistency, slightly lumpy but everything kind of uniform. Sauce done. 

For the calcots, allow 2/3 per person (they are big). Heat grill to max temperature and grill the calcots, as they are (no need to clean or trim, although you may want to take the very long green ends off but make sure you leave some), and grill until blacked and little bubbles of liquid start coming out. Wrap them in newspaper for 15 minutes, this gently steams them so the insides are sweet and delicious. 

To eat the calcots (this is the fun bit) pinch the bottom where the root is, then gently pull the inner leaves from the top and squeal with delight as the sweet tender central part slides out all in one piece. Dip it in the sauce and throw oil and juice all down your top (the Catalans wear bibs, clever).

Obviously the calcot part is very much seasonal (winter) but the sauce is great, can be made in advance and would be very welcome as part of any Mediterranean spread, or just a dip to have with pitta. 

*Fear Of Missing Out (in case you didn't know that).